Pipi Press, 2020
Nicholas wants to find one thing that he’s really good at. His friends are all good at something. His annoying next-door neighbour Ruby claims to be good at lots of things. And then there’s Oliver Billington, who always wins everything.
Perhaps he’s good at baking. Nicholas discovers he can bake delicious and impressive cakes. But are they delicious and impressive enough for The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off?
He’s got his Top Secret Ingredient. That might help. But what if it runs out…
The Great Chocolate Cake Bake Off, first published by Scholastic in 2007, is one of my most popular novels and I’m glad to be able to introduce it to a new generation of readers. It’s a fun and engaging story about families, friends, neighbours, school, friendship, loyalty, resilience, finding your own path in life, not giving up hope – and chocolate cake, of course!
Zac and Ruby and I stood and watched, awed, at the lit-up interior of the oven, as the muffins rose, and rose, and rose, into perfect, smooth rounded tops.
“Cool!” Zac said.
The muffins slid out of the trays just as the book said they would. They were light and crisp on the outside, just as the book said they should be, and streaked inside with melted chocolate.
“Why did you say they were so hard to make?” I asked, and Ruby, for once, had nothing to say. For a few minutes, anyway.
Dad came wandering in from the garage, sniffing. “What’s that wonderful smell?” he asked. “So light!” he said as he bit into one. “You must have a way with muffins.”
The muffins smelt so warm and so good that it was impossible not to sit down and eat one straightaway.
Zac ate three before anyone realised.
“Uh-oh. He won’t eat his dinner after this,” Dad said.
“He never eats his dinner anyway,” I pointed out.
“And he’s happy,” said Ruby. “Look at him.”
“He might be happy,” I said. “He’s certainly chocolaty.”
“Maybe your true talent lies in baking after all,” Ruby said. “You know? I mean, a lot of people can cook, but not everyone can bake. There’s a difference.”
“There is? A difference between cooking and baking?”
“Sure,” said Ruby. “Cakes, and muffins, and sponges, and pavlovas. All that traditional stuff that nobody does any more. You can either do it or you can’t. We all know you’re a lousy cook. But maybe you can bake.”
“A funny, fast-moving and delectable read for ages 10 plus about overcoming your fears. Health Warning: this novel should be consumed while munching a bar of Dairy Milk!”
The Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie
“Magic flavour combinations” – here’s another review from 11-year-old Takoda Cross on the Hooked on Books website.
“A feel-good story with a lot of heart.” Thanks also to Read NZ Te Pou Muramura for this review on their School Library website.